Black-throated diving birds (which look like loons, but are really rare in the UK) are being saved by rafts provided for their nests in remote Scottish Highlands.
Keep reading Rafts saving loons in Hidden Highlands
The Hallett preserve has been off-limits to the public since 1934 as a bird sanctuary. But the Central Park Conservancy offers a handful of half hour tours every year or so and I got to go on one today.
Keep reading Central Park Opens Secret Sanctuary for 30 Minutes
Winter bird and wildlife watching leans heavily on cold pushing animals into places they can eat or just keep warm. Eagles fly south to find unfrozen rivers. Manatees (and sometimes turtles) huddle around hot springs and power plants. This super harsh weather, then, is especially bountiful for wildlife watchers–as long as you’re in an area just warm enough. That’s why the south, despite cold weather, is having a great season for wildlife watching while northerners have to bear trifling numbers of animals.
The eagle-watching festivals going on around the country illustrate the trend. Anthony Lawrence, director of recreation at Kentucky Dam State Resort Park says the trees are practically dripping eagles. ”They’re landing two by two on the ice and basically ice fishing, which you never see,” he says. Same deal over in Alabama. Patti Donnelan, naturalist at Lake Guntersville, says all the known nests are active. “It seem to be a good year,” she says. Up north, it’s a bit slower. They’ve seen fewer birds this year in Keokuk, Iowa. (Though, as the midwest’s biggest concentration, they’ve got hundreds to spare.)
But it goes beyond eagles. Up in Canada the scarcity of birds showed up in the Christmas Bird Count. “”I had a total of 14 individual birds,” one biologist told the CBC. “Normally I’d have a couple of thousand of birds by that time.” Birders around Ottawa also blamed a cyclical lack of seeds.
So many factors go into how many birds are found in counts, it’s hard to just blame a cold spell. Anecdotally,
Berkshire Bird Paradise, Grafton, NYBird Paradise is one of the country’s biggest bird sanctuaries. (It’s also one of the hardest to find, off Route 2 in NY, near the Massachusetts/Vermont border.) More than 2,000 birds (100 species) live here and lots of them are the big ones everyone wants to see: bald and golden eagles; many kinds of large hawks; exotic pheasants; former pet songbirds; barnyard refugees; black swans. You’ll walk through a long green house-esque tunnel of former pets, then out to the yard. Ducks, geese and swans swim in a pond while pheasants and chickens wander around. Twelve bald eagles hang out together in the back. At the right time of year, visitors can hide in a special blind to watch a disabled bald eagle matings pair, Ross and Marilyn, and their family. The chicks they raise fly off to the wild (though return for occassional visits).Director Peter Dubacher started rescuing birds here in 1975. Friendly supporters drop by with food, building supplies as well as money.When chicks aren’t around, the emus still the show. These giant gangly birds are very curious about their human visitors. About human height, they seem to want to dance with you from the other side of the chain link fence. They twist their necks around to get a closer view and beg for food. About 40% of the birds here couldn’t make it in the wild and so will live out their lives here.
Where to See Neat Animals in the